BY SIMON EBEGBULEM
Failure has few friends and it is not surprising that chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Edo State are up in arms against one another.
Following the sound defeat suffered in the hands of the Action Congress of Nigeria’s, ACN’s Adams Oshiomhole, allegations of ethnic conspiracy, mismanagement of campaign funds and jealousy are being raised against officers and leading chieftains of the party.
Shortly after the election, there were claims and counter claims that some of its members worked against the party during the election.
There were sound reasons to believe this given that the party primaries that produced Gen. Charles Ahiavbere as governorship candidate of the party was followed with allegations of interference.
Unsurprisingly, one of the major gubernatorial aspirants, a former State Representative on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Matthew Iduoriyekenwen was one of those accused.
Others alleged to have either worked against the party or to have been indifferent were the former Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Lucky Imasuen, Chief Richard Lamai and Jarret Tenebe, among others party chieftains.
Chief Dan Orbih the chairman of the state chapter of the party, also became an object for vengeance by a number of party stakeholders who felt dissatisfied with the outcome of the election with varied allegations including highhandedness raised against his leadership.
Iduoriyekenwen was allegedly the pivot around whom the dissenters within the party flocked around. The leadership of the party immediately became suspicious and started monitoring the activities of this group and the tension heightened when the group called a stakeholders’ meeting at a particular hotel in Benin City.
In order to stop the meeting, a national leader of the party called the proprietor of the hotel not to allow the meeting forcing the conveners made up of younger elements to relocate to another hotel where they held a successful meeting.
In a communiqué at the end of the meeting, signed by one of the conveners, Barr. Kamin Bello Asunogie, the group said that following a critical review of the trajectory of the party under the present leadership that it was calling on the national leadership to dissolve the State Executive of the party.
Meeting of the dissenters
It then called for the establishment of an interim committee to manage the affairs of the committee. Immediately following the meeting of the dissenters, the State Executive of the party met and passed a vote of confidence on Orbih, urging all party members to remain united.
Shortly after the meeting by this group, the party set up a disciplinary committee to try Tenebe, Iduoriyekenwen and some other chieftains on the allegation of anti party activities.
The letter of invitation to the chieftains personally signed by Orbih, accused the members of calling for the dissolution of the party leadership. “To actualize your anti party activities you held a meeting at Durba Hotel, where you reiterated your call for the dissolution of the state Working Committee, capable of creating faction within the party”.
The letter requested the concerned members to appear before the committee on the 7th day of August, 2012 at 12pm. None of those summoned, however, attended the disciplinary hearing as they claimed not to recognize the Orbih leadership.
The decision to summon these party leaders has created another type of tension in the party as it is feared that the decision would further polarize the party since the concerned leaders enjoy large following within the party.
While this group was battling Orbih, another battle over the desirability or otherwise of proceeding with the petition against the election result of the governorship election stirred.
The party filed its petition penultimate Thursday alleging massive rigging and alleged that Oshiomhole lacked the basic educational qualifications to run for the election.
Trouble, however, cropped up last Saturday during the 79th birthday celebration of Chief Anenih at Abuja. It was learnt that many of the party leaders did not speak to one another, particularly rival associates of Airhiavbere and Orbih.
Airhiavbere’s group it was learnt were distressed that the top hierarchy of the party instructed Orbih not to proceed with his earlier pledge to go to the tribunal and Orbih to their horror seemed bent to obey the counsel.
Vanguard learnt that both President Goodluck Jonathan and Chief Anenih believe that the party should go back to the drawing board and forget contesting a result which majority of Nigerians and international observers believed was freely and fairly given to Oshiomhole.
Cracks in Edo PDP
Following the bad blood at the Abuja birthday party for Anenih, Orbih called for a stakeholders’ meeting at his Benin-City residence to again deliberate on the tribunal option.
At that meeting, Airhiavbere’s group insisted that they would proceed with the tribunal but Orbih and his group objected noting that it would be wise to opt out despite the fact that they noticed some anomalies during the election.
The meeting it was learnt was gripped with tension as Airhiavbere’s men complained about an alleged N4 billion donation reportedly brought by the presidency for the election and funds provided by the South-South PDP governors which they claimed were not accounted for.
Proceeding with court option
Orbih and his group were, however, defiant in sticking to the instruction of the national party not to appeal the court case.
However, elected PDP National Assembly members and a few others, nevertheless, differed and urged Ahriavbere to proceed with the court option.
It was not surprising that after the meeting some alleged that Orbih was playing an agenda as they claimed that he was dancing to the tune played by Oshiomhole, who like him is of the Etsako stock.
Interestingly, Oshiomhole and Orbih were one time very close family friends and Orbih’s expression of personal loss was evident when Oshiomhole lost his wife, Clara more than a year ago.
Another scheme mouthed was the ANPP conspiracy theory. Orbih along with some of the major forces in the new PDP such as Senator Roland Owie, Pharm. Mathew Urhoghide were all former members of the ANPP.
Orbih’s later insistence on not going to court was also well received among some other party leaders including former Minister of Defence, Gen. Godwin Abbe.
In declaring the decision of the party not to go to court, Orbih in a statement said that even though that there were sufficient reasons to contest the outcome of the election, wiser counsel had prevailed on the party to drop the case. “PDP is aware of the divergent views and expressions by the public. PDP is also aware of the legal options.
“However, PDP has fully consulted the leadership of the party both within and outside the state. During these consultations, legal opinions were sought and it is the conclusion of the party that while we appreciate the effects the results declared by INEC will have on our teaming members, we are also mindful of the consequences which may run into with protracted litigation.”
PDP disassociates self
But in a swift reaction, the Director of Publicity of the party, Ihimekpen, disassociated Airhiavbere from the PDP’s decision, asserting that “Airhiavbere is still in court and we will fight to finish. The PDP is a party and Airhiavbere is an individual, after when Amaechi went to court he did not go with his party. So as I am talking to you now, Airhiavbere is in court, we have served the state government and INEC. So that is the truth”.
The decision of the party not to contest the election result was favourably received by Oshiomhole who in a statement immediately following Orbih’s disclosure on Monday said: “I wish to extend my hand of fellowship to all men of goodwill to join hands with Government to move the state to the next level, because, despite all the successes recorded in the last three and half years, Edo state is still work-in-progress.”
“I look forward to more collaboration between my government, other political parties and interests in the state. I want to restate my full respect for the PDP leader, Chief Tony Anenih, whom I hold and will continue to hold in high respects.
“I also wish to assure the PDP Candidate, Maj.-Gen Charles Airhiavbere (rtd) whom I regard as a friend, that now that we have put the elections behind us, my doors are open so that together, we may lift our state to the high level where it should be. I however wish to state that other issues raised by the PDP will be commented on another occasion.”
Remarkably, the following day, Oshiomhole caused to be published in major newspapers full page advertisements congratulating his one time nemesis, Chief Anthony Anenih on his 79th birthday. Why the governor waited until the party withdrew itself from the petition before placing the congratulatory adverts was, however, never explained.